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National Campus Life Network > Blog > Articles by: mariamccann

Your First Club Meeting: Helpful Tips!

So your club has recruited a bunch of new members at your opening Clubs Fair—great! But how do you keep those new recruits, and how do you activate your new members to become fearless pro-life advocates? This is where your club’s first meeting plays a crucial role. You want to inspire the students attending to commit to the club – not simply to commit to the pro-life cause, but specifically to the club’s mission to bring the pro-life message to your campus. You also want to help them feel a sense of belonging with the club so that they come back! Here are our tips on running a stellar first meeting so that those new recruits will be eager to get involved.

1. PROMOTE!

    • Promote your opening event like crazy at your school’s Clubs Fair! Hand out mini event-flyers with all the info. When you are following up with students you spoke to at your club booth, remember to personally invite them to the opening meeting!
    • Personally invite friends, and send them reminders via text or Facebook message!
    • Invite clubs that may be sympathetic. The members of different religious clubs, or human-rights-based clubs, may very well be pro-life!
    • Put up posters around campus. You can advertise the meeting as something like, “Get to know your pro-life club, and find out how you can get active in saving the lives of the pre-born.”

2. PREPARE!

    • Students LOVE free food. Have some snacks out for people to grab when they come in, or consider ordering a meal such as pizza if it’s within your club’s budget. Remember to advertise the free food in your promotion to entice those hungry students!
    • Play some fun music as a great way to break the ice (and avoid awkward silences…) Check out our playlist of upbeat music with a positive message—perfect for your first meeting.
    • Have an info table with club resources, and encourage new members to take a resource.

3. RUN IT!

    • Hospitality is key! Instruct –and remind – the club leaders to really focus on the new members. At the beginning, you and the other exec members should be going out of your way to chat to all the students who come—make sure everyone feels welcomed! It is primarily through forging these personal relationships that you will be able to motivate new students to get active.
    • The president or another exec member should do a brief introduction on the club: who you are, why your club exists, and how students can get involved.
    • Help people get to know each other by running a fun icebreaker. For instance, you can ask all the students to share their name, their area of study, why they’re pro-life, and when they were 5 what they wanted to be when they grew up.
    • You might also want to get some discussion going by playing a short video, then inviting club members to share their thoughts. Some of our favourites are the CCBR’s educational videos, the story of Eliot Mooney in 99 Balloons (be prepared to cry though), and Signal Hill’s Cause and Effect video.
    • Most importantly, give students opportunities to get involved! 
      • Have 1 or 2 activities planned for the remainder of the semester, and really encourage students to get involved! This shows that you’re organized and have a plan as a club, and it gives the students ownership of the cause, showing them they are needed and can make a difference in saving lives.
      • You can invite them to sign up for helping with tabling, postering, or the QA project (and let them know that they’ll be paired up with other experienced club members). For example, let all the new members know that your club will be doing pro-life chalking the following week, and you’d love their help!
      • Don’t forget to let students know the time and location of your weekly meetings!
    • Incorporate some social time at the end for students to mingle, chat, and munch on some snacks.

4. FOLLOW UP!

    • You and your exec members should send a follow-up message to new members, thanking them for coming and inviting them to your next event. They’ll appreciate that you remembered them and took the time to contact them!
    • If club members signed up for anything, be sure to add their names to your email list (or FB group, etc.) and follow up with them on how they’d like to get involved.
    • Finally, let NCLN know how your event went, and how we can help you in your future events!

We hope these tips help you have an awesome first meeting, as the start to an awesome year!

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Life-Saving Teams

By Chad Hagel, NCLN Intern

As a child who seemed to be born with two left feet, tripping used to be part of my daily routine. Whether it was at the mall or in the park, there was almost a 100% chance my feet would betray me to the non-negotiable forces of gravity. Down I would go, the ground rising up to meet me, my hands flashing out to stop my fall, and I would usually be rewarded with two fresh scrapes.

My mother used my frequent tripping episodes to teach me a lesson: Don’t let people try to help you up. You have to do it on your own. As I got older, I found the opposite proved true: you do need people to help you up. You don’t have to do it on your own, as we are all facing the challenges life brings, regardless of our place in society.

When it comes to the challenge of saving the pre-born, the seriousness of the emergency requires all of us – especially campus clubs – to take that lesson seriously.

We need to be teams focused on saving lives.

That means we have be aware of each other and ourselves, and we need to recognize the unique talents that each person brings to the table. Our feet must be firm on the ground, and, despite any differences in opinion, our teams must have a sense of unity that speaks to the gravity of our work.

How, then, can you create that sense of unity within your campus club? Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Meet people where they are. Not every person enters pro-life activism with the same mindset, level of enthusiasm or level of training. As leaders, we have to recognize this and make adjustments in how we approach the people we work with. For example, when I began pro-life work, I had an action-oriented mindset, was somewhat lukewarm in my enthusiasm, and had no training. With the coaching and support of other pro-life leaders, I have grown to be a leader focused on change, on fire for the pro-life cause, and equipped to engage in some of the toughest conversations. These leaders realized that I needed certain things to become a full-fledged pro-life activist. They also recognized that I had something to give to the fight to end abortion. Taking account of our personal needs and ambitions without losing sight of the emergency at hand enables us to grow as a life-saving team and attract new members on fire for ending abortion.
  2. Build trust. Meeting people where they are at necessarily engenders trust. New members come feeling vulnerable, and possibly feeling a bit unsure of what they are getting into. It’s our jobs as good leaders to assess their current level of training and enthusiasm, tap into that and build them up so they themselves can become leaders. In turn, you come to trust them in their commitment and assign them greater tasks, raising their level of activism, as it were. I can speak from my own experience: I rose from general club member to President precisely because I was given the opportunities to develop as a leader and prove myself. Learning how to meet one another’s needs, while supporting one another in leadership development, creates that spirit of trust that is essential for the pro-life movement. If we can’t even trust the people we work with, how can we ever hope to accomplish anything significant together?
  3. Recognize individual value. Since the worth of the human person is the central message behind the pro-life movement, we leaders are called to recognize the different abilities and talents our team members bring to the table. Is there someone better suited to working behind the scenes and helping the movement on your campus run smoothly? Then assign them that task. Is there someone who has a strong passion for being a voice on campus for the pre-born through activism? Then give them full-reign in planning outreach! The same goes for people who write well, possess graphic design skills, or know how to build a website: create a niche for them in your club! Why? In recognizing individuals’ talents and providing them with a space to exercise them, we bring together the two points I mentioned earlier: people are met where they are at in terms of their talents, and trust is created as a result. In this way, we establish a spirit of collaboration, which will go a long way in creating a club that is well-grounded and firm in their convictions.

Like my childhood self, I can almost guarantee you that you will trip, some times more than others. You will make mistakes. But that’s part of the adjustment process – and experience only cements some of these points.

Nonetheless, get back up again. When all is said and done, you will have a team that is well put-together and one that can easily accommodate new members. You will have the finest life-saving team with you as you strive to change your peers, one person at a time.

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From Apathy to Conviction

On Censorship and the Virtue of Refusing to Shut Up

By Chad Hagel, NCLN Intern and President of UTM Students For Life

When I booted up my phone on August 26th, 2015, the words on the screen stopped me cold. I had been looking forward to spending the last few days of summer relaxing and preparing for my third year at the University of Toronto Mississauga without tension. Alas, it was not to be. One of my fellow pro-life club executives, Cameron, was informing me that he had received an email from our Student Union telling us that our club status for the 2015-2016 year had been revoked. We were told little more than that, but it was as if the large flame of peace I had been nurturing had been extinguished. Even though it had not quite begun, our second year operating as a club had gotten off to a rough start already.

Over the next five months, I experienced a whirlwind of emotions as we first strove to find out why we had been censored. We decided to enlist legal aid while attempting to reconcile with the Student Union, and finally we chose to enter into a lawsuit, which has yet to be settled. The constant bombardment of stress and frustration—on top of my academic life—took a significant toll on me, and I reduced my course load in the second semester so I could recharge and refocus my energies.

In so doing, I was able to reflect on my position in the pro-life movement. I encountered a staggering revelation: since my involvement in pro-life work on campus, I had become firmly committed to speaking strongly against the greatest human rights injustice of our time. This revelation became all the more staggering as I remembered my mindset as I’d signed the club’s mailing list in 2014: apathetic, just doing it because it was expected of me.

How did I get to this point?

Before I explain how, I want to make a point about how apathy functions in the pro-life movement. It’s like a canker sore. When you get a canker sore—especially around your lips—it’s painful. It affects how you eat, how you breathe and how you talk. In short, it doesn’t just affect your lip; it affects how you interact with the people around you. It’s much the same with apathy. If someone’s apathetic, their apathy affects not just them, but the people around them. Apathy breeds more apathy, and apathy is something we cannot afford to have in the pro-life movement.

However, there is hope. Just as a canker sore recedes with time, apathy can be tackled and brought into conviction. That’s what I’m here to emphasize – how to move apathetic pro-lifers in your pro-life campus club to conviction. Here are some beginning methods:

  1. Create a supportive environment. One of the greatest boons I enjoyed in struggling with my Student Union was the support I received from NCLN and my local Right to Life group. They assisted me in numerous ways, most of all emotionally. They led me from apathy to conviction. Further, build that support network not just with pro-life organizations, but also within your club! Meet up with your members outside of activism and exec meetings for coffee. Ask them how they are doing outside of the pro-life cause. Get to know them as a whole person. Invite them to approach you if they have any concerns about being in the club, or anything else related. Be there for them.
  2. Implement a theory of change. As current president of Toronto Right to Life, Blaise Alleyne, once put it, pro-life organizations should not focus solely on doing activities for the sake of doing activities, but should look toward the broader picture. He calls the former a theory of action, the latter a theory of change. He argues that instead of doing activities that make us look busy, we are to do activities that are grounded on the principles of saving lives and making abortion unthinkable. Emulate this in your own club. Look hard at what you are planning for the upcoming year. Is it just busy work? Or is it planned with purpose, with an end goal in sight? How will your activism be effective in ending the killing of preborn humans? These and other such questions will help ground your club in a spirit of change, which will diminish the stain of apathy and allow convicted leaders to develop.
  3. Maintain your compassionate care. In my experience, I know that when I go to events and have no response – either mentally or emotionally – and have that apathy reciprocated by the event organizers, I am unlikely to come back. If the organizers didn’t care, how likely am I to care? Similarly, be careful to present your caring face to those you meet in the pro-life movement, in your club as well as in your activism. Just as you would extend care and compassion to the post-abortive woman, be sure to extend care and compassion to your club members. If they call you, call them back. If they text you, text them back. If they want to talk to you in private, respect their wishes and move to a quiet place. When you debrief after activism, make sure you ask them how it went, and listen to them. Listen to people–it is an indirect way of showing you care about them.

Although this is hardly an exhaustive list, do these small things and you will witness a blossoming of passionate pro-lifers in your campus club.

In the end, however, it is important to remember that the convicted pro-lifer will get tired. This is an inherent part of the human condition. When that happens, remind them of how they were. Ignite that spark. Be their support. Follow through. Look towards the bigger picture. Even though that may not be enough to restore the energies of your team member, it will certainly work for you: you will become further convicted of the need to have a pro-life presence on your campus. And that, really, is what we need: leaders determined to carry on the fight to save the preborn.

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Pro-Life Movies: Staff Picks!

By: Maria McCann, NCLN Intern

Though summer is fast coming to a close, we students still have some long lazy days left with no schoolwork to take up our evenings! Why not spend that free time having a pro-life movie night with your friends? We asked our staff to suggest their favourite pro-life movies, and we got everything from a 1960’s drama to an animated comedy. Although some of these movies may not seem “pro-life” in the traditional vein of Bella or October Baby, they all proclaim the value of human life and the importance of fighting injustice. Enjoy watching one of these movies on a summer evening, and keep them in mind for a club social during the school year!

Michelle’s Pick: Horton Hears A Who (2008)

The children’s comedy Horton Hears a Who is an animated adaptation of the beloved Dr. Seuss story. Horton the elephant is amazed to discover the microscopic town of Whoville living on a speck. However, the rest of his community refuses to believe that the Whos exist, and Horton must protect Whoville from the wrath of his neighbours.

Michelle Caluag: “Not only funny and entertaining, this movie also presents a very basic but crucial pro-life message (though not intended) to everyone: ‘A person is a person no matter how small.’ Horton shows us that every life deserves to be protected and cared for. He stands up against the antagonists to protect the people of Whoville, showing us that every life is valuable and worth fighting for.”

movie night picKathleen and Christine’s Pick: The Giver (2014)

Both Kathleen and Christine praised The Giver for its pro-life themes and for its inspirational protagonist, Jonas. The Giver depicts a seemingly-Utopian community where the citizens have traded emotions, memory and family for stability. However, dark secrets lurk behind the community’s idyllic facade. When Jonas is chosen to become the town’s new “Receiver of Memory” and becomes capable of emotion, he discovers these secrets and wrestles with how to respond.

Kathleen LeBlanc: “Watching The Giver was very powerful for me. I was surprised to see a mainstream movie portray the fight for life in a culture of death so accurately. I felt such a connection to the main character, Jonas, who finds himself in a culture that is blind to the preciousness of human life. He takes such great risks to protect the life of another, and acts with such urgency and confidence, even though he is alone in the fight. The Giver was such a strong reminder to me of how we must respond to the culture of death that we are living in: with determination and with haste.”

Christine Helferty: “The Giver is one of my favourite movies with a pro-life message because it beautifully demonstrates three truths. Firstly, it shows that great injustices can be very widely accepted practices hidden behind deceiving language. Secondly, it clearly portrays the horrors of injustice and the beauties and joys of life and love. Finally, and most importantly, this movie demonstrates the indispensable importance of each individual. Our role in ending the injustices of our time is no less important than Jonas’s role in ending the injustice of his time.”

Maria’s Pick: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Maria: “A film-adaptation of a book does not usually do justice to its source. To Kill A Mockingbird is the exception. This movie depicts Harper Lee’s classic novel, in which ‘Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice’ (IMDb). It is also a coming-of-age story told from the perspective of Scout, Atticus’ young daughter.

This movie inspires because it shows the importance of speaking the truth and standing up for human beings who are being dehumanized. Atticus Finch, in particular, gives a moving example of justice and love in the face of bigotry and hatred. Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for playing Atticus, has become the voice of my conscience: ‘In the name of God, do your duty’. I’m not the only one who was inspired by the character: the American Film Institute voted Peck’s portrayal of Atticus as the Number 1 Screen Hero of the last 100 years.”

Anastasia’s Pick: Les Intouchables (2011)

Anastasia Pearse: “The French movie Les Intouchables does a beautiful job of narrating the true story of a paraplegic man, Philippe, who hires and befriends an ex-convict, Driss. This unlikely duo prove to be a perfect match who bring joy, laughter, and meaning into each other’s lives. It affirms the necessity of looking past other’s apparent disabilities, making the best of our current situations, and being open and vulnerable enough to realize that each of us needs to rely on others. As Philippe says in the movie, ‘Don’t wait for things to get easier, simpler, better. Life will always be complicated. Learn to be happy right now. Otherwise, you’ll run out of time.’

Philippe is further quoted in the movie as saying ‘It doesn’t matter who you are on the outside, the main thing is who you are on the inside.’ From my experience, this is a statement that the majority of people in our society would agree with! However, so many of our actions run counter to this, specifically in regards to the current euthanasia issue. It’s sad that our society is not aware of this incongruency – that our advocating for euthanasia is emphasizing that we are placing our value as humans on external more than internal qualities. This well acted and entertaining movie certainly puts a face to this issue and shows that we find joy when we connect with and support others from the inside out.”

Clarissa’s Pick: The Island (2005)

In the sci-fi thriller The Island, the protagonist Lincoln and other residents live in an isolated, rigidly governed compound. They believe that the outside world is too contaminated to sustain human life. Their only hope of escape is to win a weekly lottery that will let them go to “the island”, the last remaining paradise. However, Lincoln soon learns the horrible truth that he and his friends are clones, created for organ harvesting and other uses.

Clarissa Canaria: “This movie – perhaps without meaning to – shows the true destruction of embryonic stem cell research. An issue that oftentimes falls off the radar of even the keenest of pro-life activists, it is good to be aware of the sad inclinations of our society to treat human beings at their earliest beginnings as a commodity. It is powerful in depicting the wrongness of this use, and it is a great reminder to us all of everyone’s inherent dignity and value. If you’re into dystopian thrillers in general, that’s an added bonus!”

Chad’s Pick: Zathura (2005)

In this spiritual sequel to 1995’s Jumanji, two squabbling brothers, Danny and Walter, find a mysterious board game in their basement and begin playing it. They soon realize that the game affects reality: their home has been transported to outer space, and they must contend with the hazards of space, aliens, and a robot gone amok. Joined by their sister and an astronaut, Danny and Walter must get over their differences and learn to work together, if they are ever to reach Zathura and return home.

Chad Hagel: “While Zathura is particularly notable in encouraging the spirit of cooperation, somewhat less visible is its encouragement of the central pro-life tenet: every human being has value and can contribute in some way to the greater whole, by virtue of being human. At the beginning of the movie, Walter is particularly hostile towards Danny: he belittles him, and doesn’t show particular regard for Danny’s feelings. As the movie wears on, Walter begins to care for his brother, and even goes out of his way to save him at the film’s climax. Just as Walter grows to become a brother to Danny, so to does this film encourage us to become better humans, respecting other humans for their humanity and inherent value to our society. If you loved Jumanji, appreciate good acting by Kirsten Stewart or love science fiction in general, I would highly encourage you to sink your teeth into this film!”

Josh’s Pick: Sophie Scholl – The Final Days (2005) 

This historical drama retells onscreen the story of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, an anti-Nazi student group based in Munich, Germany during the Second World War. Persecuted for their beliefs and bold tactics, Sophie and her friends refuse to give in to pressure and compromise their beliefs. For that, they pay the ultimate price.

Josh MacMillan: “Sometimes pursuing truth comes at a price. For Sophie Scholl and the members of the White Rose, that meant exposing the lies and censorship of the Nazis at their university, despite the consequences. On our campuses, we are called to do exactly the same thing for the vulnerable. We know the lies that our culture is spinning to dehumanize the weak, and must respond in whatever way we can to proclaim the rights of every human being. While there may also be a price for us, the example of the students in this film should spur us to take courage and boldly stand up for what we know to be true, good, and beautiful.”

Joanna’s Pick: Les Miserables (2012)

Joanna Krawczynski: “First, I have to challenge you – take time to read the book. We read an abridged version in French class, and I keep this close for inspiration. Also, having the context provided by the book fleshes out the story,  as the rich background plot is not always given in the movie.

What sticks out to me about this film: how characters illustrate what real relationship should look like, that is, laying down your life for the good of another. Also, the prominent theme of mercy hits home for me, how difficult but desperately needed it is to give and to receive mercy.

This film also brings home some very sad history. The film is at times hard to watch, depicting the dangers of dehumanization and the resulting violence and exploitation. However, the film also depicts how vital and truly beautiful it is to choose life instead of death, love instead of hatred, forgiveness over bitterness. The world of Les Miz is one that is dark and shattered, yet love remains not only possible but imperative. This world and mission sound familiar to anyone?”

We hope we’ve given you some inspiration for your next movie night! Comment to let us know your thoughts on these movies, or let us know if we missed any hidden gems!

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The Road Ahead: Reflections from Symposium 2014

One life changed, many lives saved. We are so excited to share with you Alex’s story of finding her passion—and now career—in helping preborn babies and pregnant moms. Alex Sibiga, outgoing co-president of U of G LifeChoice, attended her first NCLN Symposium in 2014 and wrote a blog for her club’s website about the impact that the weekend had on her. Two years later, her desire to help preborn children and pregnant women continues to fuel her: she is currently doing her second summer internship with the Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, and in the fall will begin the midwifery program at McMaster University. In her words, “That Symposium changed my life. I’m so glad to look back knowing that the conviction I felt didn’t extinguish.” We’re so glad as well!

Check out her reflections after attending Symposium 2014: True Patriot Love.

The Road Ahead

You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right. – Rosa Parks

A little over a week ago, I spent a weekend in a place that seemed too good to be true, a made-up land perhaps…Actually, as more time passes, the more I feel as though I did just dream up the whole thing.

This Oz that I am talking about is the NCLN Symposium — a pro-life conference, put on by pro-life power-houses, to train and equip members of pro-life clubs on university campuses all across Canada. This was a place where everyone around was, in fact, pro-life and shared the belief that abortion is wrong.

Woah, right?

It was such a great and unusual experience being surrounded by people who feel the same way as I do about abortion and have the same passion as I do to end it. I was in a place where I could openly share how sad I am for the pain abortion causes women, or how angry I am at abortion clinics and their coercive ways used to make ridiculous profit, or how frustrated I am at our culture’s double standard when it comes to human rights. I could share these views openly and everyone agreed and shared similar opinions! Seriously, not used to that.

Being a pro-lifer at a university such as Guelph’s, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to being part of the minority who thinks the littlest of us should have the right to live and that the best solution for an unplanned pregnancy ISN’T to “undo” it. I am pretty aware that this isn’t the general consensus at school. With not a single pregnant student in sight and a Planned Parenthood ad in the section of our survival guides that’s supposed to tell us where to go if pregnant, it seems the culture around me is more pro-abortion than anything…

So as you could imagine, it was a breath of fresh air being at this symposium. I wasn’t in Kansas— I mean Guelph, anymore, and a big part of me wanted to stay there forever. That would be counter-productive though… If you want to change the world, you can’t only surround yourself with people who agree with you. So now we’re back to school, but I’ve taken a lot from the weekend with me, and I hope to hang on to all I’ve learned like a life vest in this stormy pro-abortion sea!

There are three specific things that struck me:

We are human rights activists. There’s a significant group in our population who do not have the rights that they deserve, that we all deserve- the right to live, and this is no different from the other major human rights violations in the past. When some people were considered slaves, it was perfectly legal to deny them their rights to freedom. The law said these humans were not persons. Many people accepted that this was how their society had to run. But then there were those few loud and bold individuals who stood up for them. Those human rights activists took on the struggle and fought the unconquerable battle until it was conquered. It’s no different now. We are human rights activists fighting for what will one day end, and when our grandchildren live in a world where, like slavery now, abortion is unthinkable, and they ask us if we did anything about it, we won’t have to be ashamed about our indifference or our silence.

Being Pro-life is an action. I’ve always thought abortion was wrong, but sometimes I just didn’t think about it, and sometimes I felt like it was just too big of an issue for me to be able to do anything…so I didn’t do anything. I justified this by telling myself that I know it’s wrong, I would never have one, and that’s as far as being pro-life needs to go. What’s wrong with this picture is that being an inactive pro-lifer is believing abortion is killing human beings but letting it go on! I know it’s a huge battle to fight, but we’re 100% sure to lose if we fight with apathy and inaction. The Pro-Life Movement is gaining momentum and everyone has something to offer it! We need social media masterminds, prayer warriors, convincing conversationalists, generous funders, maternal support super heroes, and SO much more. Preborn infants can’t speak or act. But we can. And we must.

Finally, Be courageous and have hope, change is ACTUALLY possible. The biggest thing I got out of the weekend was
HOPE. It’s so easy to get discouraged and think that no one will ever change their mind about abortion, but I learned that hearts and minds are being changed across Canada. Through logical, loving, and honest dialogue many people are realizing the injustice. The CCBR, or Canadian Centre for Bioethical Reform, is an incredible and gutsy organization that goes out to the streets with the very real images of abortion victims. As alarming as that sounds, a lot of people take those images to heart. Of course people get angry at the display, but then they talk with the CCBR members and come to the conclusion that abortion is in fact taking the life of a person. These conversations aren’t heated debates, like so many of our discussions about abortion end up being; these conversations are rooted in love for all life, and THAT is what changes things. I know this yellow brick road that pro-lifers have to walk is not an easy one, but take courage and love those who are pro-choice, because it’s that courage and that love which WILL change hearts and save lives.

I’m writing all of this not just for you to read and hopefully be inspired, but for myself also. I feel as though the fire I have for this cause is blazing and ready to take on the world, but I know being at university is like placing this fire in a blizzard. This battle is so incredibly tough. Discouragement and apathy are sure to take a swing at me this year, but when they do, I hope to read this and remember that we can’t stop because we’re tired, or because it’s hard. We can only stop on the day every heart and mind believes the truth, and the land of Oz— the land that respects all human life— won’t be somewhere over the rainbow, but right here at home.

And there’s no place like home.

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